For many journalism students, the toughest part of putting together a journalism internship application is writing the cover letter. With editors receiving hundreds of application packets, how do you make yours stand out? How do you make sure that the editor’s first impression of your application is a positive one…and that your application isn’t simply tossed into the circular file?
The cover letter is the first impression that an editor will have of you, so it’s critical that you make it a good one. Editors often say that the worst thing you can write is a boring cover letter. Using clichés and tired phrases is another no-no. It automatically makes the editor think you are a boring and uncreative person – not the sort of person they want as an intern.
The cover letter should not repeat what is in your resume and clips, but rather show other aspects of your personality and personal experience. It should be casual, conversational, and interesting to read. Remember, the editor will have hundreds of these, and it will take creativity to make yours stand out.
Many editors and recruiters say they like cover letters that tell stories. Journalists are storytellers after all, so you should make sure it is clear that you can tell a good story. Think about some of the most interesting stories you have covered, especially ones where you maybe faced unusual challenges and surmounted them in a creative way. Stories like that are good ones to include in your cover letter.
Especially if you are applying for a writing journalism internship, you will want to make sure that your cover letter is well written and grammatically flawless. If you are trying to sell yourself as a good writer, then the first writing sample they read from you had better knock their socks off.
You can use the cover letter to point the editor inside, such as by referencing one or two of your clips inside. Because, ultimately, the point of the cover letter is to pique the editor’s interest and get him or her to look more closely at your application. You can do that by talking a bit about some of the writing samples you included, so that the editor will look inside for more.
The most important thing you can do is have other people edit your cover letter for you. You’ll want it to be flawless and fun to read.